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How Much Can You Get From a Community Pantry?

Up to you, no judgment, says founder.
by Ara Eugenio and Arianne Merez
Apr 21, 2021
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño
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At the Maginhawa community pantry, no one will be judged for giving little or taking more, its originator said Tuesday, as social media posts accused those who take "too much" from pantries of hoarding. 

Ana Patricia "Patreng" Non, who started the "give what you can, take what you need" pantry idea, said it doesn't matter how much people get. Pantry operators would understand either way, she said.

"Ang community pantry hindi siya judgmental. Kahit gaano kalaki yung kaya mo ibigay o gano kaliit, tatanggapin namin. Ganon din sa mga kumukuha," Non said in a Zoom call with reporters.

"Kung kumuha ka ng isang lata, okay lang. Kung kumuha ka ng lima, ganon talaga, kailangan mo. Maiintindihan namin," she added. 

Filipinos flock to pantries for relief instead of relying on government aid. Photos and videos of people taking too much from community pantries have surfaced online, with some calling it "garapalan".

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However, it's not greed but rather an effort to attain a sense of security for the poor, Enrico Baula, who teaches Behavioral Sciences at the De La Salle University-Manila told reportr. When life is unpredictable and when stomachs are growling, feeling shame over getting more than what's enough is not the first thing that comes to mind.

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"Poor people are more inclined to accumulate more than necessary because, for poor people, the future is very unpredictable," Baula said.

"They need something to help them feel safe and secure that for the next couple of days, we will be okay. It's not about greed. Poor people want to feel the security," he said.

Froilan Alipao, a Philippine Studies scholar from the University of Santo Tomas Department of Sociology, also rejected branding those who take more from pantries as greedy.

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People have different thresholds of what is enough, he said, noting not everyone is in the same situation. "Bawat indibidwal ay iba-iba ang sitwasyon. Hindi mo basta pwede husgahan dahil relative ang konsepto ng 'sapat' sa kada tao pero hindi lang naman iyan  nangyayari sa mahihirap pati din sa mayayaman," he said.

There's a foil to hoarding, one that's also familiar to Filipinos, according to Baulahiya or shame. "But when you compare hiya and security, you have to think that hiya is a luxury of those who can," he said.

"At the end of the day, community pantries wouldn't happen when resources are available for everyone," he said. 

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